As CEO and co-founder of Ixcela, a biotech company that analyzes individuals’ gut health (or microbiomes), my work encompasses what I’ve always loved to do: scientific discovery that will help people. I also get to face (and try to embrace) new challenges every day. For now, let me tell you a little bit about what Ixcela does and why I’m passionate about my work.
Why the Gut?
Our gut microbiome is a critical part of our overall wellness and ability to fight off chronic disease. Most people don’t think about it much, but we rely on tiny organisms that live in our bodies. Even though we can’t see them, they control many aspects of our health. Ixcela’s goal is to help people keep their gut health in check, and not allow imbalances to make them tired or ill. We call having a healthy, balanced gut being “internally fit.” How do we control the organisms in our gut? The answer is simple on the surface: through diet, exercise, rest, and mindfulness. The specifics get more complicated. How much and what types? Those answers differ for each person.
What’s an Ixcela, Anyway?
Ixcela is derived from Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of healing and medicine. Every business has to rack their brains about what to call themselves. The possibilities are infinite, and yet it’s hard to create something unique. When I started researching the Mayans, a culture advanced in science and healing, I took a liking to Ixchel, a goddess and healer. What are goddesses supposed to provide? Maybe knowledge. Maybe some sort of power or protection. Our company shows people how to change their lifestyles by modulating their guts, thereby fortifying them against disease. Although deities can be fickle about providing help, mortals who send Ixcela a blood sample always receive a plan to improve their wellness. It’s completely up to the individual—a personal, not supernatural, intervention. And so, personalized diet, exercise, rest, and mindfulness becomes the ultimate medicine.
How Did I Get Here?
My career didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t follow a straight path, and it certainly didn’t happen without a lot of work (I’ll tell you more about all of this in future posts). As an entrepreneur/CEO, your duties are many and varied. There’s a common misconception that you become a CEO because you know how to do all of the “CEO things.” That’s just not the case. You learn as you go. If you waited to become an expert at everything, you’d never actually do anything. You will regularly stray from your area of specialty, and you have to be OK with making mistakes and asking questions. In reality, perfection doesn’t exist. Is any complicated issue ever worked out “perfectly” with the first try? Mistakes are part of the process. That’s why, no matter what you do, you need to keep trying.
Obviously, science is one of my lifelong loves. I enjoy knowing how things work and searching (and re-searching) for innovative solutions. But, my underlying motivation is improving others’ lives. Ixcela’s way of thinking about health and wellness empowers people. It cuts through the noise and offers no-nonsense, science-based advice, and I think that is important. The gut is a fascinating organ. At Ixcela, each day is brimming with new ideas and new questions, and I’m grateful to have a talented team that keeps everything rolling along. I’m proud of the work we do and excited about our future.
Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 2012 from Boston University School of Medicine. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Erika is the Executive Director and Founder of Science from Scientists, an award-winning, National non-profit which sends real, charismatic scientists into classrooms to improve the attitudes and aptitudes of 3rd-8th-grade students in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). She is also the CEO and co-founder of Ixcela, a biotechnology company aimed at developing tests and interventions to improve gut microbiome efficacy and health.